Sunday, May 02, 2010

Question from Ally - Purpose and effects of images of Elizabeth

hi, currently in our NCEA level 3 class (7th form) we are studying Elizabeth I reign. i wanted to know if you had any information on images of Elizabeth that were created during (and after) her reign. what was the purpose and the effects of these images?


Marilyn R said...

You will never find complete agreement about all the iconography in every portrait but all I have done is Google ‘Elizabeth I iconography’ and these are the first two sites I found:

1.Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), with commentary

2.Queen Elizabeth's Public Face: Tarnya Cooper Looks At The Wider ... -

A few weeks ago Lara put up info and pictures on the Blog about a portrait with a snake, which you need to look at – I went to see it at the National Portrait Gallery and thw whole picture is really ugly; you could compare it with the jewelled serpent of wisdom on Elizabeth’s sleeve in the Rainbow portrait.

My own favourite is the Sieve Portrait by Metsys (Massys), now in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. I agree with the information on the first site so have copied it for you. Basically, it shows Elizabeth thinking over what the advisors in the background have told her, sieving through the information in her mind before making a decision. The sieve is also associated with the Vestal Virgins and wisdom – she is wise enough to make the right decision. I always think her dark clothes are more like a business suit of today – expensive and beautifully made, but understated. I suggest you take a look at the rest of the site, which seems to be just what you need, although I personally would stay clear of the Zuccaro sketch at Sudeley Castle. You can find clearer images than on this site and see the detail more clearly.

Elizabeth I: The Sieve Portrait, c1583, by Quentin Metsys the Younger. Elizabeth is portrayed with a sieve in a number of portraits. This one is referred to as either the 'Sieve Portrait' or 'The Siena Portrait', to distinguish it from the others. It is one of the few surviving works of Quentin Metsys the Younger and was discovered in 1895, rolled up in the attic of the Palazza Reale in Siena, hence the alternate name. Elizabeth obviously admired this artist's work. In 1577, she unsuccessfully attempted to purchase his 'Burial of Christ' triptych from the Carpenters' Guild in Antwerp.
The sieve is a symbol of chastity and purity, originally taken from Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity. In the story, a Roman Vestal Virgin proves her purity by carrying water in a sieve and not spilling one drop. The sieve thus reinforces Elizabeth's image as 'the virgin queen'. The rim of the sieve is inscribed: A TERRA ILBEN / AL DIMORA IN SELLA' (The good falls to the ground while the bad remains in the saddle).
The figure to the right of Elizabeth is possibly her courtier Sir Christopher Hatton. His white hind badge is just barely visible on the figure's cloak. If so, then it is possible that Hatton commissioned this portrait; he may have met Metsys during a trip to Antwerp in 1573.
The roundels behind the queen depict the story of Aeneas and Dido, with the queen compared to Aeneas. Like the classical hero, she has faced temptation (marriage) and now leads a powerful nation. The globe behind the queen continues this theme. Ships are crossing west on the globe, possibly an allusion to England's conquest of the New World. TVTTO VEDO ET MOLTO MANCHA ('I see all and much is lacking') is inscribed on the globe. The portrait itself is inscribed: STANCHO RIPOSO & RIPO SATO AFFA NNO ('Weary I am and, having rested, still am weary.')

Marilyn R said...

Just had another thought about the Sieve portrait - it's in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena and not the Palazzo Pubblico.

Jolie Dawson said...

What I've read is that Elizabeth had portraits done to be circulated around the country, for her people to see different depictions of herself. It was also to promote her image in general; a form of patriotism. Hope I helped!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth was "Glorianna", "The Virgin Queen", "The Lion's Cub", and she understood the value of being seen by her people, and the value of propaganda. She had an image she wanted to portray.
The love of her people was the most important thing to her, hence as she said that she was married to England, and needed no other marriage.
She was extremely cunning, and a master of calculating. She was an excellent chess player, and in the game of chess and in life, she made no move without a motive.
She learned from not only her own mistakes, but also from others, like her mother, and her sister.
You can be sure that every official portrait of her had a purpose.